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Buffered VPN 2018 review: A simple, easy-to-use VPN

Stuart Andrews
1 Jun 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
9.75
$12.99 per month, or $99 for first 13 months

A decent VPN, but Buffered doesn’t quite match its rivals for features – or price

Pros 
Simple and easy to use
Great long-range performance
Key features are present and correct
Cons 
Killswitch can be hard to disable
Pricing isn’t wholly competitive
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When we first looked at Buffered VPN last year, its big selling point was simplicity, with a Windows client that made it incredibly easy to protect your online activities. The feature set was somewhat limited, though, making it hard to justify the price. Since then, the service has seen a good few changes – the question is, are they enough to transform Buffered from an also-ran to a contender?

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Setup and basic use

Buffered’s user interface has been recently revamped, but it’s still very straightforward. All you need to do is start the app, scroll through the list of 45 locations, then double-click on one that meets your requirements. The client sets up the connection, and within a few seconds your traffic is being encrypted and tunnelled through the server.

So far so good, but if you’re not sure which server is best for, say, streaming from US catch-up TV services or circumventing censorship, Buffered doesn’t help you make a choice. The best that can be said is that when you do find a good server, you can mark it as a favourite, to make it instantly accessible next time.

The client does benefit from a few new features. For one, Buffered has finally gained a killswitch, along with a nice clear indicator to show whether it’s enabled or not. You can toggle it in the Settings menu to make sure that a break in your VPN connection doesn’t result in your real IP address and location being compromised. It’s a welcome addition, but I did hit one hitch while testing it: when I restarted my PC with the killswitch enabled, I found myself unable to get the internet connection back until I’d rebooted a second time.

There’s also a built-in speed test to give you an indication of how fast your VPN connection is, plus a firewall test you can use to make sure your firewall isn’t blocking any features of the client. Other VPNs – notably NordVPN - go further with security options or additional privacy protections, but Buffered is heading in the right direction.  

READ NEXT: NordVPN: The gold standard of VPNs

Server locations

Buffered covers 45 locations – and while that might not sound like a lot, it covers an impressively diverse range of countries. As well as Europe, North America and Asia, Buffered has servers across Central and South America, plus an unusually broad presence in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Kuwait, Israel, Iran, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Africa is well covered too, with servers in Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Kenya.

Performance

Buffered hasn’t just gained features since our last review: it’s become a lot more competitive on the speed front, particularly over longer distances. A UK VPN link gave 79% of normal download speeds, and while Buffered wasn’t quite as fast as some other VPNs when connecting via the Netherlands, we still got a respectable 74% of our regular speed.

Buffered did particularly well in the US and Hong Kong. Our US VPN link was actually faster than the UK connection, giving us 81% of normal download speeds, while our 19Mbits/sec connection to Hong Kong proved a nose ahead of our top choice NordVPN, which only managed 18Mbits/sec. While Buffered isn’t quite at the top of the performance table, it’s certainly moved up the league.

Privacy and security

Buffered VPN is based in Hungary, which puts it out of reach of the Five Eyes and Nine Eyes intelligence alliances – but not outside the EU or its data retention laws. The good news is that Buffered’s logging policy states that it only records the time and duration of your connections, not anything related to how you use it. Indeed, the company even lets you review your own logs so you can confirm for yourself exactly what’s being stored. It may not be quite as safe a bet as a VPN based in a territory without data retention laws, but it’s reasonably safe and admirably transparent.

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Pricing

As usual, there’s a choice of payment plans. The pay-monthly plan is predictably the most expensive at $12.99 a month; you can save a little by paying six-monthly ($59.94) or annually ($99), but Buffered remains one of the more expensive VPNs.

Verdict

Buffered has developed into a solid, easy-to-use VPN – and that’s great to see. The only problem is that rivals like NordVPN and PureVPN offer similar performance and better features at a lower cost. We’d happily trust Buffered to keep us safe online, but there’s still not enough here to justify the price premium.

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